TIMELINE: Mid-South coronavirus updates April 2

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The impact of the novel coronavirus is being felt all across the Mid-South where new cases are being announced every day and new steps are being taken to help limit the spread. Keep checking back for the latest COVID-19 updates throughout the day.

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Below are the latest updates for Thursday, April 2

UPDATE: (5:00 p.m.) Kroger has confirmed a second employee at the Kroger Distribution Center tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, a Kroger spokesperson said:

The associate was asked to self-isolate last Friday after the first case was announced. They are home and recovering. We believe the two cases are related. We will continue aggressively cleaning and sanitizing the facility. Before entering the building, each associate has their temperature checked as we take additional precautions to keep our associates safe.”

UPDATE: (3:15 p.m.) Gov. Bill Lee announced FEMA approved Tennessee’s major disaster declaration. The Army Corps of Engineers is working with officials to provide access sites with extra hospital space for positive COVID-19 patients.

Gateway Shopping Center will serve as the site for a surge in COVID-19 cases in Memphis.

UPDATE: (2:24 p.m.) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will sign Executive Order 23, requiring Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities.

Data has shown a recent increase in citizen movement across the state, according to Gov. Lee.

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” said Gov. Lee. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”

Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic patterns for March 2020. While safer at-home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards again.

The Administration also analyzed data from Unacast to understand cell phone mobility and determine movement trends. Unacast indicates the movement of Tennesseans is trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels.

UPDATE: (2:05 p.m.) During a news conference with the Shelby County Health Department, a health official said there have been seven deaths in Shelby County.

The official said the department is also projecting the surge of cases to “either happen in the third week of April or the beginning of May.”

Officials are continuing to find overflow locations in case hospitals reach capacity.

The majority of cases continue to be people under the age of 60; however, the department is seeing more cases of people over the age of 60, who are considered high-risk.

The SCHD also said it is not recommended that swimming pools be opened. A SCHD official said they are working with Mayor Harris to get official written notice regarding swimming pools.

Hobby Lobby stores have also been closed.

UPDATE: (2:00 p.m.) The Tennessee Department of Health reports 2845 cases of coronavirus in the state.

There are now 32 deaths, 263 hospitalizations, and 220 people recovered.

UPDATE: (1:30 p.m.) Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a news conference today regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the state is 400 cases under the number of cases originally projected, which shows the curve could be flattening.

Gov. Hutchinson showed a map during the conference which showed Arkansas was one of the 14 states that does not have a state-mandated “Stay at Home” executive order. He referred to a targeted response instead of a state-wide mandate.

All states around Arkansas have either stay at home or safer at home orders. According to Hutchinson, this doesn’t tell the story. Most states with a stay at home order aren’t keeping people at home because of exemptions.

For example, each day millions of Californians go to work. If Arkansas put a similar order in place, about 700,000 people would still go to work, but many people would lose their jobs.

“Let me assure you. If we need to do more, we will,” Hutchinson said.

He also said that people need to continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

In regards to the prison population, employees at prisons are being screened when they arrive at work. Also, the prisons have started making washable masks for prisoners and guards to wear.

There are 625 cases confirmed in Arkansas.

  • 91 health care workers have tested positive
  • 51 nursing home residents have tested positive.
  • 23 people are currently on ventilators
  • There have been 12 total deaths

UPDATE: (12:30 p.m.) City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen answered questions related to the coronavirus during the COVID-19 Task Force Update.

McGowen said the City is looking at sites for alternative care facilities for hospital beds.

The City needs 1000 additional hospital beds.

McGowen said the City has looked at the FedEx Forum, but deemed it not large enough for the number of beds needed.

McGowen said a large, open space is needed, and the Forum’s layout is not efficient.

The Memphis Convention Center is under renovation.

The City is looking at commercial/retail space with hundreds of thousands of open square feet.

McGowen said air conditioning and electrical abilities are important.

The City is looking at vacant warehouse options.

Medical volunteers will be needed to staff the alternative care facilities.

McGowen said the City has 700 ventilators and needs 3X that number.

The City has procured an additional 550 ventilators, according to McGowen.

McGowen said the surge of coronavirus cases in Arkansas and Mississippi will not be as severe as Tennessee.

McGowen said closing off the city of Memphis to outside travel would be nearly impossible to enforce.

Compliance with the order to shut down non-essential businesses is critical, according to McGowen.

“Don’t skirt the rules,” McGowen said. “No one should have a false sense of security. We know there is a wave coming.”

McGowen said there will be a peak in cases, and that will not be the only peak.

“Once we get through this first peak it does not mean the virus is gone forever,” McGowen said.

There is no certain date things will be back to normal, according to McGowen.

Restrictions will begin to lift one at a time. There is no certain date that will occur.

McGowen said there is presently no need to restrict or close down Memphis International Airport.

Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease expert, said during the briefing that social distancing and testing are critical right now.

Jain said we are facing an epidemic and that people at home must practice social distancing.

Jain said telemedicine is being used more and more.

UPDATE: (11:30 a.m.) A staff member at Christian Care Center of Memphis tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, according to Jason Murphy, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.

According to Murphy, the employee has not been in the facility since March 26.

Currently, no other employees, nor any residents are suspected of being infected.

The center notified residents, families, and staff immediately, according to Murphy.

UPDATE: (11:11 a.m.) Memphis-based B.R. Distilling Company, maker of award-winning Blue Note Bourbon and Riverset Rye, is now producing more than 250,000 units of medical-grade hand sanitizer for hospitals and first responders nationwide, according to a press release.

The company anticipates this project will likely grow across the next month.

Under strict guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), B.R. Distilling’s sanitizer complies with national standards for medical-grade products.

With production and bottling already underway, B.R. Distilling has shipped out several truck loads.

UPDATE: (10:09 a.m.) Mississippi health officials are reporting 104 new cases of the coronavirus, with four new deaths.

The total coronavirus cases in Mississippi since March 11 is now 1,177, with 26 deaths.

UPDATE: (9:50 a.m.) The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry is closing Prentice Cooper State Forest until further notice to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, according to a press release.

“Despite urging the public to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and to limit travel, we are still seeing an overwhelming number of visitors to Prentice Cooper State Forest,” State Forester David Arnold said. “That has led us to the difficult decision to close the forest to the public. We all need to work together during this health emergency, and we look forward to reopening the forest when it is safe to do so.”

The main road into Prentice Cooper State Forest and all Edwards Point Tract access points are closed effective immediately. Hiking trail entries from private property are also closed, according to the press release.

UPDATE: (9:30 a.m.) Einstein Bros. Bagels has launched Family Meals in order to support local communities during the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Meals are available by calling ahead or via the company’s mobile app. Meal choices include:

Hot & Ready Brunch Box: Feeds six to eight people, $29.99

Take & Make Pizza Bagel Kit: Feeds six people, $9.99

Take & Make Bagel Deli Kit: Feeds six people, $29.99

The company is urging guests to use the Order Ahead capability through the company’s app, available on Google Play or the App Store, where guests can submit and pick up their orders quickly in-store.

UPDATE: (9:05 a.m.) Arkansas health officials have confirmed 625 cases of COVID-19 in the state.

UPDATE: (8:10 a.m.) Shelby County has 638 cases of COVID-19, according to health officials.

Health officials have reported 5 total deaths in the county.

UPDATE: (7:15 a.m.) Social Security recipients will receive stimulus payments, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service.

Both agencies announced that Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file an abbreviated tax return in order to receive the economic impact payment.

Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts.

The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019.

Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits.

Read the full press release here.

UPDATE: (6:45 a.m.) The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel will present a virtual commemoration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life and legacy on Saturday, April 4, the 52nd anniversary of his death.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the museum has retooled its original event to produce digital content and a virtual broadcast entitled, “Remembering MLK: The Man. The Movement. The Moment.”

The program will air at 5 p.m. Saturday Saturday on the museum’s website, YouTube, Facebook, and Livestream platforms.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Museum educator Dory Lerner will read the children’s book, Martin’s Big Words, engage in learning activities and answer parents’ and kids’ questions about Dr. King.

UPDATE: (6 a.m.) To find out if and when you should be tested for the coronavirus, texted “COVID” to 901-203-5526.

For additional information, visit www.mycareplan.net/COVID-19.

UPDATE: (5:10 a.m.) The Mid-South Food Bank will be distributing food through its Mobile Pantry at the following locations today:

Memphis, New Direction Church, 6120 Winchester, 11 a.m.

Memphis, (kid friendly) Greater New Liberty, 250 E. Raines Rd. 10 a.m.

Volunteers will place food into cars.

UPDATE: (4:45 a.m.) Below are the current number of coronavirus cases by state for our area:

Tennessee 2,683 - 3 in Dyer County, 14 in Fayette County, 497 in Shelby County, 22 in Tipton County. 24 reported deaths. There have been 137 recoveries in the state.

Arkansas 624 - 31 in Crittenden County. 10 reported deaths.

Mississippi 1073 - 22 in Coahoma County, 94 in DeSoto County, 15 in Lafayette County, 15 in Marshall County, 8 in Panola County, 11 in Tate County, 28 in Tippah County, 13 in Tunica County. 22 reported deaths.